WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As Devontae Cacok continues to impress the nation, it’s hard to believe it may not have happened this year at UNCW. With the change to the coaching staff, question marks arose on whether or not Cacok would return, but Coach McGrath made his decision easy.
“I think meeting McGrath when he first got here and seeing who he really was kind of a big impact on me staying here,” Cacok said. “I can tell that his morals and him bringing his North Carolina ways here made me think it would be a good fit for me as well. I think staying here was a good decision and I’m glad with that decision.”
When Cacok decided to return, fans in the Port City probably cheered as loud as they do when the big man slams it down. Last season, he gave the crowds plenty to cheer for as well as he set the NCAA record for field goal percentage, shooting 80% on the year.
“Even now I’m still thinking ‘how did I do it?’ Honestly it was a team thing for me,” Cacok said. “I don’t like to take it all. Without my team, I wouldn’t have gotten it anyway.”
This season was not short of milestones for Cacok either. In the game against Elon, he set the single-season rebounding record on the back of his 21 boards against the Phoenix and against Charleston for the final home game, he eclipsed the 1,000 point mark in his career. With each passing record, the spotlight grows, but he’s just lets his play do the talking.
“I just treat it like another year,” Cacok said. “Yes, there’s a lot of media and this and that, but at the end of the day, it’s just media. I still have to be ready to play when I get out there on the court.”
There are a lot of positives in Cacok’s game, but something he hangs his hat on is his hustle. It’s definitely the reason he sits at the top of the rebounding charts and it’s something he uses to benefit his team.
“Having that is an advantage because most teams won’t expect somebody to run down the court,” Cacok said. “Most teams don’t expect somebody to block a shot and run down and get a bucket. My athleticism helps me get down the court quicker than some of my opponents. I just use it as much as I can.”
This season, Cacok has upped his game to new heights. He stayed at UNCW because he thought the coaching staff could help and that’s exactly what Joe Wolf has done.
“He’s really making me see things that I’ve never seen before. He sees little things in my game that I need to work on like whether it’s just holding the ball to my chin or just making sure I get it up where no little guards can get it,” Cacok said. “Everything that he’s given me, I take it into consideration and it’s helping my game elevate. I feel that everything he’s doing for me is helping me out.”
As players change year after year, over the last three seasons, one thing has stayed consistent: Jordon Talley and Devontae Cacok.
“Me and him know that everyone is going to look up to us,” Cacok said. “People are going to look to us and hold us responsible for whatever goes down.”
Once his college career ends, Cacok hopes he can take his talents to the NBA. While he doesn’t play for a school that gets the constant television coverage, he looks to another Mid-Major star who made it big in the league.
“Definitely Kenneth Faried is a very good example of someone that I’m compared to,” Cacok said. “I’ve watched his game a little bit, he’s undersized as well, but he’s still hard to stop. He uses his athleticism to the best of his abilities against his opponents. I feel like I do the same thing.”
Another comparison that people make when they see Cacok jump out of the gym is Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates, two college basketball stars who went on to have major success in the NFL. So could Cacok trade his basketball for a football?
“If basketball doesn’t work out, I’ll definitely go to the NFL if that was able to happen to me,” Cacok said. “If someone shows me what I have to do or tell me where I have to be at, I can probably be able to get it done. If I were to have to do that, I’m sure I’ll be good.”
It would be an interesting twist of fate if Cacok ended up back on the gridiron. That’s really where his sporting career began as a kid. But an injury changed the course of his sports career and maybe his life.
“In eighth grade I broke my wrist, before that I had never played basketball,” Cacok said. “Once I healed up, basketball season was getting ready to start. The head basketball coach at my middle school reached out to me and asked me if I had ever played before. When I told him no, he said I should give it a shot. After I got that love for the game I knew I had to put time into it, elevate my game and work on my craft. I started to build that trust and love for the game.”
Through all the accolades and success, Devontae Cacok remains humble and classy. It’s something he owes to his biggest inspiration and biggest fan.
“Words can’t explain how much I love my mother,” Cacok said. “The things her and I have been through growing up, no matter what she was there for me. It’s a bond that will never be broken. She drives me and always keeps my head straight. She always makes sure I’m doing the right thing, think about decisions before I do it and think of other peoples feelings. She’s done everything for me. She’s built me and crafted me into the person I am today and I thank her for it. If you ever do see this mom, I love you.”